Tag Archives: frugal gifts

Fun holiday tradition: 12 days of Christmas

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to a fun tradition. For the twelve days leading up to Christmas, my mom would wrap small gifts for my sisters and me. Every day before school, there were gifts on the kitchen table for us to open.

The gifts started out extremely small — a pack of gum or a candy bar. As we got closer to Christmas, they would get a little fancier, but still small — the biggest gift on Christmas Eve would maybe be a CD or a DVD. The gifts were essentially stocking stuffers that we opened in the days leading up to Christmas instead of Christmas morning, but it was so much fun!

This year, Tony and I decided to do our own 12 days of Christmas. Every day until Christmas, we’re exchanging very small but thoughtful gifts. It’s a fun tradition, and a great way to show that we’re really paying attention to each other.

It’s not necessary to spend a lot of money or any money at all to show your kids or your spouse how much you love them through small gifts. I considered making a “pizza night” certificate for Tony. Since he does the cooking, I thought he’d like to have a pass to skip cooking and order pizza any night he wants. I ultimately decided that was sort of lame, since he already has that power anyway, but I thought it was a fun idea anyway. I also joked that he should give me a gift certificate for a free outing by myself while he keeps Judah at home. We’ll see if he takes my suggestion, but I doubt it since he said I can already do that whenever I want. (I’ll have to remember that from now on!)

I can’t reveal what I did get for him for the remaining days, but for days 1 and 2, he received a bag of M&Ms and a 6-pack of Coke in glass bottles — two of his favorite treats that he rarely indulges in. He gave me a mug for drinking tea or coffee and a package of Starbucks hot cocoa.

I apologize for not sharing this idea with you early enough that you could do your own version, but I literally decided to do it Monday, and we exchanged our first gifts Tuesday. So it was last minute for us, too.

Judah is too young to receive gifts like candy, and he really doesn’t need more toys. But I can’t wait until he’s a little older, and I can carry on this fun tradition for him.

What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Making the holidays as simple as possible

I hardly ever do stuff like this, so bear with me, okay?

Unless this is the very first time you’re reading my blog, then you know I’m having a baby very soon. Literally, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’ll be welcoming an adorable, pooping, crying, time-consuming bundle of joy into our home.

Some of my blogger friends who are in this position are very organized and motivated, and they’re getting their holiday shopping done early. For a number of reasons, though, I’ve decided to take Christmas off this year. Not only are we short on time, but our budget is very tight. As much as we love shopping for our families, we’ve asked to be excused from any holiday gift exchanges this year. We typically only exchange gifts with our parents and buy toys for our nieces and nephews anyway. The way I see it, our parents are getting a grandbaby for Christmas. It took me 9 whole months to make this baby for them, so they better like it. :)

For a hot second, I thought about baking instead of buying gifts. Or the old frugal standby — making gifts. Then I remembered that for the entire holiday season I’m either going to be very pregnant and preparing for baby, or I’ll be caring for a newborn. It’s just not happening this year. And that’s okay.

So what about other holiday traditions like holiday greeting cards? I usually send handwritten notes to friends and family wishing them a happy holiday and letting them know how we’re doing. This year, I’m simplifying our greeting cards by sending holiday photo cards from Shutterfly. With any luck, the baby will be here in time for us to include a photo of him on our cards along with a printed greeting. I’ll just pop them in an envelope, address them, add a stamp, and I’m done.

If you’d still like to add a handwritten message, there are plenty of stationery cards available with blank space for writing. I’m choosing to send photo cards with a printed message to make things as simple as possible.

If you want to make things even simpler, Shutterfly also has Christmas address labels and Christmas gift tags.

How are you simplifying the holiday season this year?

In exchange for this blog post, I’m receiving 50 free holiday greeting cards from Shutterfly. If you’re a blogger and you’d like to participate in this giveaway, you can get more information here.

Creating a holiday care package for a soldier

care packageThis year, Tony’s sister’s fiance is spending the holidays in Iraq. We really wanted to send him some things to make his holiday a little brighter, so we put together a care package.

This was my first care package for a soldier, so I put a lot of thought into what to send.

Here are some of the things I learned while putting it together.

Make it personal

There are tons of places online with great care package ideas, but it’s best to keep your soldier in mind when creating yours. Everyone is different, and the care package you send should include personal touches to let him know you’re thinking about him.

For instance, my future brother-in-law doesn’t care too much for sweets, and the microwave in his room recently bit the dust. So he specifically requested food and snacks that don’t need to be cooked to be enjoyed. His care package includes lots of his favorite snack foods like chips, fruit snacks, and trail mix.

Check with other friends and family to avoid overlap.

It’s likely that other people in your soldier’s life are putting together care packages for him, too. Check with them to make sure he’s getting a wide variety of treats and gifts.

Include a touch of home

Is there a certain baked good he misses? Or a local treat he can’t get overseas? Pack something special that will give him a little piece of home for the holidays.

Add some cheer

It may not feel too much like Christmas in Iraq, but he might be craving a taste of the holidays. Send some hot chocolate, festive candy, and maybe a Christmas movie to keep his spirits up.

Don’t forget the necessities

Treats are your top priority in a holiday care package, but it might be nice to send some necessities, too. Soap, shampoo, toothpaste and other toiletries are a nice addition to a box of treats.

Do you have any care package ideas to share?

Photo by nathansnostalgia

Last minute holiday gifts that won’t bust your budget

Christmas giftsWe’re coming into crunch time now, and if you’re anything like me, there are probably still a few people on your list for whom you need to buy gifts. I always find myself adding people at the last minute, which can be a real problem for my gift budget.

Here are some easy, frugal gift ideas for gifts for the last few people on your list.

Baked goods

Who doesn’t love to get cookies at Christmas time? It’s likely you’ll be doing some holiday baking anyway, so pick up some decorative plastic wrap and give away a dozen cookies wrapped with a bow.

Magazine subscriptions

Amazon has some amazing deals right now for 1-year magazine subscriptions. Many of them are even available for $10 or less. Choose something you know they’ll be interested in, and it shows that you’ve put thought into the gift. They won’t get the first issue until after the holidays are over, but there’s plenty of time to print up a card that says, “I got you a gift subscription!” They’ll know it’s on the way, and it’s no hassle for you.


Supermarkets usually offer great discounts on good wines right now, because they know people are entertaining. Pick up a nice bottle for under $15, stick a bow on it, and you’ve got a great gift for the wine connoisseur in your life.


I love to get a fun desk calendar for work or a wall calendar for my home office at the holidays. Find one with practical tips or a theme they’ll like, and they’ll think of you every day of the year.

A night out

When I was a teenager, I always gave my parents a “date night” for Christmas with two movie tickets and a gift certificate for their favorite restaurant. People who are strapped for time love this because it gives them an excuse to work time into their busy schedules for themselves. If your budget is too tight for a restaurant meal, consider a gift card for a coffee shop instead or a “movie night” gift basket with a movie rental, popcorn, and snacks.

If it’s a close friend or family member with kids, be sure to offer your babysitting services, too, so they can take advantage of your gift without having to worry about finding a sitter.

Share your last minute gift ideas by leaving a comment! We can use all the help we can get this time of year. :)

Photo by obd-design

I just earned $8 for buying $57 worth of toys

Photo by .bean

Christmas giftWhew. I got a lot of Christmas shopping done this weekend. Well, not a LOT since we’re not buying a lot, but I’m about 75% finished with my list.

This year we decided to cut our shopping list down to our parents and our 5 nieces and nephews. Unfortunately, we have huge families, and we don’t a lot of money in our budget for gifts (or anything other than bills, debt, and savings, really). I’ll do some baking for my sisters in the spirit of the season, but we just couldn’t afford to shop for everyone.

In true frugal holiday spirit, I found a way to get a great deal on toys for my nieces and nephews.

I redeemed about 7,500 MyPoints for a $50 Amazon gift card. (Have you joined MyPoints yet? If not, email me so I can send you a referral link! I’d love to get some points for telling you about it! :))

I found 4 of the 5 toys we need at Amazon. We bought one of the toys last month when we came across something that we knew one of my nephews would love. I made sure everything shipped directly from Amazon, so all the toys qualify for free shipping since my total was over $25.

My total came to $57. I used my Amazon gift code to bring the total to $7 and some change.

Here’s the best part: Right now, Amazon is offering a free subscription to Cookie magazine when you spend $25 on toys. (Thanks Kacie at Sense to Save for letting me know about this!) According to the promo information, you can pass on the subscription and request a $15 rebate instead. I should be receiving an email about it in the next few days. According to the promo, all I have to do is send a form along with my order confirmation to Amazon and they’ll send my $15.

If it works out, I’ll actually end up earning $8 on this transaction. Even if it doesn’t work, I bought Christmas presents for all 5 of my nieces and nephews for just $7. Not too bad considering I got $57 worth of great toys. :)